Paul begins by thanking the Philippians for taking part in the gospel with him and expresses his faith that God will use them for great things. He lets them know that his imprisonment was simply for proclaiming Christ, and that it has served to embolden others. Then, he declares that ‘to live is Christ, and to die is gain’, meaning that as long as Paul lives, he gets to work and bear fruit for Christ. When he should die, he will be taken to Christ in heaven. To Paul (and indeed for Christians in general), it is a win-win situation. Whether suffering or not, the Philippians are charged with living a life worthy of Christ.
In Philippians 2, Paul tells the Philippians to be humble and of one mind, as Christ was humble, accepting God the Father’s will for Him to die on the cross. This served to glorify Christ so that everyone will exalt him. Paul announces he is sending both Timothy and Epaphroditus to the Philippians (both had served with Paul for a long time).
Paul starts off Chapter 3 by warning the Philippians against evildoers and those who mutilate the flesh. Christians do not put their confidence in the flesh but in the Holy Spirit. Paul gladly counts all his worldly achievements and status as loss for the sake of living in Christ. Afterwards, Paul says that he relentlessly looks ahead, as is mature thinking for Christians, and focuses on what he can do in the future for God’s kingdom.
In the final chapter, Paul tells the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord, as He will provide for them and guard them in Jesus. He tells them to think always of what is good. Then, Paul thanks them for supporting him, and in turn he assures them that God is opening their hearts. Finally, Paul closes the letter with his greetings.
Who wrote it?
Philippians 1:1 names Paul and Timothy as the authors. Throughout the letter, the pronoun “I” is used to refer to Paul, such as in Philippians 1:3.
Who was it written to?
Phillipi was an ancient city in Macedonia, located in modern-day northern Greece.
When was it written?
Unlike many of Paul’s other letters, Philippians does not provide sufficient context for dating the letter. Philippians 1:13 names Paul a prisoner, but Paul was a prisoner in more than one place and time. The letter, however, is traditionally linked to around 62 A.D., when Paul was in Rome.
Why was it written?
The church in Philippi was apparently doing quite well, assisting Paul with his ministry through financial donations, and it is this gift that likely provides one reason that the letter was written. Paul also wanted to encourage the Philippians to grow in their faith.
How does Philippians apply to me?
In Philippians, Paul captures the way the he lives in Christ. ‘To live is Christ, and to die is gain’ is a fairly popular verse because it illustrates how fantastic the Christian life is. Either one lives and experiences joy serving Christ, growing in Him in the meantime, or one dies and experiences joy BEING with Christ. Paul also expresses how he’s always looking forward instead of backward, to how he will serve the Kingdom of God and how it will grow. Just as he says the Philippians should imitate him, all Christians should seize the day and use it for the Lord, finding joy in doing so.
As for all posts in this series, a book introduction in a good study Bible will provide more information than listed here. The ESV Study Bible is one recommendation.
The Bible Project video on Philippians
Biblical illustrations by Jim Padgett, courtesy of Sweet Publishing, Ft. Worth, TX, and Gospel Light, Ventura, CA. Copyright 1984. Released under new license, CC-BY-SA 3.0